On Pro-Rates and Pro-Rights

When you look at the requirements for a ‘pro-sale’ for both the SFWA and the HWA you will see payment, word count, but you won’t see rights anywhere. And I think that is an issue. 

It is one thing to say that 8¢/5¢ per word is professional rate, but for what? First sale? Print? Ebook? What if it includes audio (podcasting) rights, future anthology rights? What about the exclusivity period? Is three years exclusive ‘professional’? What about 5? What about perpetual? 

When someone buys a story for X¢ per word, it is those rights that they are buying. 

At LampLight we paid about 3–5¢ per word for most of our run, which is not a professional rate most of the time. But, we did not ask for professional rights either. Non-exclusive (no period of exclusivity at all), sure it is ‘perpetual’, but that is simply to keep old issues of the magazine in ‘print’ since they are ebooks/POD. We explicitly state we cannot use the stories outside of the issue/annual.

It was this balance between what we needed to publish a magazine, and our budget that led to this. 

And yet I see places asking for long exclusivity periods, for audio rights, either audiobooks or performance, because they have a podcast. Hell, there was a horrible anthology that asked for movie and video game rights. 

But hey! They paid 10¢ per word… 

The point I’m trying to make is that we should be linking ‘pro-sale’ to a certain rights / exclusivity period as well. Something like:

  • X¢ per word
  • Print / ebook
  • Max of 1 year exclusivity (exclusions for Best of… and Author collections)

And make it clear that additional rights have additional costs to be considered a pro-sale. 

We should have guidance for what things like audio rights1, derivative rights, adaptation rights, video games, etc, should be to meet a pro-sale requirement. (Yes, some of this is in the SFWA and HWA requirements, for which I am grateful) 

And if you are a ‘for the love’ market, the word ‘exclusive’ should not appear in your contract. 

I think that this, perhaps more so than the price-per-word is what marks a publication / market as a professional sale: a market paying correctly for the rights it is acquiring. 


  1. We need to stop pretending ‘podcasting’ is something different than audiobooks. The ‘podcast’ part is just a means of distribution. ↩︎

Haiku Monostich

One of the Haiku writers I’ve been reading, Hiroaki Sato, talks about how in Japanese haiku and tanka are written as a single line poem.

The three lines are a product of translation, and are an interesting discussion about ‘what makes a poem a poem’ and how that can change between cultures and languages.

In English the requirements for poetry have become less rigid over the years, especially in the last 100. Blank verse, free verse, prose poetry are all poems. But the same would not have always been true. Forms exist because there were rules about what made a poem a poem, and line breaks and stanzas were a major part of that.

Rhyme as well was a major piece of English poetry through most of its history, and as such you’ll see some older haiku translations include rhyme (A B A is the most common scheme I’ve seen). Since almost every word in Japanese ends in a vowel, rhyme is not a defining part of Japanese poetry.

So if haiku in Japanese is a single line poem, should it be translated as such? Sato thinks so, and his books have them as a single line.

I’ve been trying to write haiku, and have started writing them as a single line after reading Sato, and it works well for composition.

One of the principles of haiku that I’ve been working on is the poem is two parts. Usually this falls at a line break in translation, but that is not a requirement. By composing in a single line I can worry more about having the parts, independent of the line breaks, which impose an artificial constraint.

The other thing it does is it removes the initial urge to be rigid about the syllable count. (And yes, there is another translation discussion about English syllables and Japanese ‘sounds’ to be had)

For example, if a poem has 17 syllables, but you would have to beak a word to have a 5-7-5 line break, did you succeed? More importantly, would you have even picked that word if you were forcing yourself to have the line breaks?

For a constrained form, removing some of those constraints during composition, pushing them to editing, has helped. Because a haiku isn’t a 17 syllable poem, 5-7-5; it is a comparison of two things with a turn and seasonal word that has a syllabic constraint.

What’s in a So?

iA Writer recently had an update where they allowed for custom style check filters in addition to the cliches, fillers and redundancies filters the app possessed.

This coincided with me reading Dreyer’s English. In the opening chapter Dreyer gives a list of words to stop using for a week.

One of which—so—is one that I knew I used too much.

It was straight forward to add in the words to iA Writer’s pattern list—the only catch being that since I wanted words, and not letter combinations, I had to add spaces before and after.

Otherwise, “so” would mark “personal” since it contained “so”.

Has it helped? That’s to be decided. The intent is not to exclude these words from my prose, poetry, or blog ramblings, but to be more conscious of the construction of those writings.

So when I drop a “so”, it feels fluid, not repetitive.